Kanye West – Graduation
Release Date: September 11, 2007
Record Label: Roc-A-Fella
Everybody feel a way about K but at least y'all feel somethin.
The lyric above may be the truest thing Kanye West has ever said about his music and himself. Controversial is an understatement when describing Kanye West. He’s an ego-maniac. He has posed as Jesus Christ on the cover of Rolling Stone, and who can forget his candid comments about the President? While it’s a distraction to some, West embraces it. He loves the spotlight, he strives to be the best, and his discography does almost as much talking as he does about how good he is. His debut, 2004’s The College Dropout, and follow-up, 2005’s Late Registration, have all sold well over platinum, have both received perfect reviews from many publications, and have won Grammy’s for being the best hip-hop album of their respective years. So how does West follow up with his third album, Graduation? Well, with pristine production and some of the best beats you’ll hear in all of 2007, of course.
The difference between West’s previous work and Graduation is that this album is his most laid-back, one-dimensional album. And that’s not a bad thing. Kanye doesn’t take as many chances as he had in the past, but the consistency throughout the album proves to be very solid. “Good Morning,” the lead-off track, is carried by minimal drum beats and key samples, while “Champion” is a hand-clapper, featuring a Steely Dan sample. The big hit off the album is the Daft Punk-sampled track, “Stronger.” This track is one of the strongest singles that West has ever released, as his production with the sample is sublime. “I Wonder” is the sleeper track on the album, as it could be a huge hit with fans. The combination of the Labi Siffre and West’s flow give this track huge personality.
The second hit from the album is “Good Life,” which features R&B crooner T-Pain. While I dislike his solo work, T-Pain adds so much life this track. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” is a biting track, as it channels some of the intensity West has shown on tracks like “Jesus Walks” and “Diamonds From Sierra Leone.” Graduation falls off big time with the next two tracks, “Barry Bonds” and “Drunk And Hot Girls.” These are the only two hiccups on the album, which is strange, because looking at who guests on these tracks (Lil’ Wayne and Mos Def, respectively), you’d think these would be some of the stronger tracks. Instead, “Barry Bonds” sticks out like a sore thumb on the album, while “Drunk And Hot Girls” sounds like a rejected Eminem song. Thankfully, the charismatic “Flashing Lights” follows, and it features some of the best production work of West’s career and “The Glory” reminds me of a hip hop Jackson 5 song.
Three of the final four tracks are some of the more touching songs of West’s career. “Everything I Am” is a deep, piano-driven track that shows West taking a good look at his life. “Homecoming” features Chris Martin of Coldplay fame and he does a fine job carrying the hook. West appreciates his idol and mentor, Jay-Z, on the album closer “Big Brother.” This song is especially different from his previous work, as it’s rare to see someone with such a huge ego give props to a fellow rapper. Deep in rising synth samples and subtle guitar riffs, it closes the album out in high fashion.
Graduation, simply put, is the worst of Kanye West’s three albums. This shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing, as his first two albums are two of the best hip hop albums to be released in this millennium. Graduation isn’t as adventurous or risky as Late Registration, or as powerful as The College Dropout, but it is his most personal album. The flaws are there as well, his flow and delivery haven't gotten any better and while I enjoy most of the tracks and beats, it would have been nice to see him take more chances musically. But lyrically and musically, it is still a very strong album, as you can see that West is at peace with his life but striving to achieve more at the same time. Say what you will about Kanye West, whether you think he is an overrated rapper running his mouth or one of the greatest rappers of our time, you cannot deny his impact on mainstream music today. Kanye West has finally graduated, and he has passed with flying colors, just like the album art suggests.
09/10/07 11:38 PM
Graduation, simply put, is the worst of Kanye West’s three albums. This shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing, as his first two albums are two of the best hip hop albums to be released in this millennium. Graduation isn’t as adventurous or risky as Late Registration, or as powerful as The College Dropout, but it is his most personal album.
This told me all I needed to know.
Great, great stuff, Drew. I love how you tied the album art into the review for the close.
09/10/07 11:42 PM
i think this is a pretty good album, not an 87% good, but thats minor. I completely agree with your thoughts on bonds and girls, as well as the stellar production of "Flashing Lights" that is def. my favorite song. "The Good Life" is going to smash radio, i wasn't let down by this at all.
09/11/07 12:04 AM
amazing review drewb. i plan to get this tomorrow.
09/11/07 02:04 AM
surprise surprise kanye gets reviewed while dozens of better cds are ignored..
I have mixed feelings about Kanye,. I like some of his production, its easily influenced mainstream rap. Although hes not exactly a lyrical genius. 99% of Kanye's flow is ego and he is one of the lone rappers that sounds credible when doing it (lil wayne, you dont. you are the worst rapper alive.)
I heard the leak awhile ago and might get it but there are some better rap cds that came out this year. This site desperatly needs a hip-hop reviewer.
09/11/07 02:53 AM
It's not great to be honest, but i still enjoy it, i was just expecting better or more importaintly, bigger. As far as Kanye as a packarge goes he's awesome but as a rapper & he's lyrics go i think he's poor, but still enjoyable if that makes any sense.
Ps, I'd agrue that Lupe Fiasco's record was as good as Kanye's previous works, if maybe not as shocking and mainstream, though i guess it wasn't mainstrean until kanye did it...
09/11/07 07:18 AM
Nice review. I agree with every word in it.
09/11/07 07:35 AM
Good review. I'm not usually into Kanye, but the lack of skits on this album will make me more inclined to give it a listen.
09/11/07 07:51 AM
I think this album is better than Late Registration IMO. I couldn't stand but one or two tracks from it. I basically enjoy every track besides the two mentioned.
Of Dust and Nations
09/11/07 08:45 AM
i am probably the only one in the world that likes it more than the college dropout, but less than late registration.
09/11/07 08:52 AM
I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought "Drunk And Hot Girls" sounded like a rejected Eminem song. Amazing album, though.
09/11/07 09:16 AM
I think "Barry Bonds" is fantastic. I think it shows someone known as "an intellectual rapper" can turn around and create a great track with a "raw" rapper like Lil Wayne. LOVE THIS ALBUM.
09/11/07 09:34 AM
splat out path
09/11/07 09:35 AM
The album is just boring, and yeah, it's his worst by far. It's cool he's not sticking to the same style of music which could have netted him another platinum album (even if his new style conveniently aligns with the indie electronic blog demographic), but his poor emceeing skills really show up here, whereas previous albums his brilliant arranging and sampling could gloss over those shortcomings. Curtis is better.